McLeish Orlando LLP says it’s “very serious” about snagging the top prize in the holiday fundraiser for the Daily Bread Food Bank this month, adding another competitor to a nearly decade-old rivalry between Toronto law firms looking to raise more than $280,000 for the organization this year.
“It’s just the right combination between the spirit of giving to a good cause and the energy of the holidays,” says John McLeish of the personal injury firm.
“It has people talking about it all the time and almost everyone in the office has been putting all their energy into it. We’re pumped.”
The Daily Bread Food Bank’s law firm challenge began Nov. 28 and runs until Dec. 19. As the biggest employee holiday fundraiser for the organization, articling students at Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP who run the challenge each year are calling on law firms to surpass the $280,000 they raised last year.
“Currently, we have about 40 firms competing, which is around the same as it was last year,” says Casey Vandeputte, an articling student at Blakes. “Everyone seems pretty excited.”
In the meantime, firms like McLeish Orlando, which is competing in the challenge for the first time this year, say they plan on staying ahead of the competition with a series of activities aimed at raising the most money and food possible.
“We’ve divided ourselves into three teams and created an internal competition between them with prizes like days off to the team that donates the most,” says McLeish.
“We’re hoping to raise around $20,000 between us, so around $300 each more or less. We’re really excited about this and have been asking everyone we know to donate.”
But McLeish Orlando isn’t the only firm using office competitions to garner support for the top prize this month, says Kristin Thomas, development officer at the food bank.
“Some of the law firms will do fundraisers and others hold auctions, dress-down days, 50/50 draws or encourage people to bring in bagged lunches and donate the money they would have spent eating out to the Daily Bread,” says Thomas. “There are a lot of different ways people get involved.”
To pass the $280,000 mark this year, lawyers will report the total amount of food and money they’ve raised each week to Blakes. Articling students will keep a running tab to see how the firms compare, Vandeputte notes.
Last year, McCarthy Tétrault LLP raised more than $40,000 to win the top prize.
“Their donations make a big impact and will help take us into the winter months,” says Sarah Anderson, communications director at the food bank. “We certainly couldn’t do it without them stepping up to the plate.”
Tough economic times and decreased donations during the charity’s fall drive also make the law firm challenge particularly important to the food bank this year, Thomas adds.
According to Anderson, the food bank’s fall drive fell short by $85,000 and more than 60 kilograms of food.
“We supply the city with more than 60,000 hamper boxes of food every month, so even a small donation would make a significant impact,” says Thomas. “Every bit helps.”
From April 2010 to March 2011, 908,000 people visited the food bank, according to its data. Thirty-six per cent of the visitors were children.
Each year, the food bank spends more than $1 million buying food to stock its shelves. For roughly $25, it can feed a family of four for two days with one hamper box. If the law firm challenge reaches its goal, the result could be more than 11,200 hamper boxes of food.
For some firms, getting interest in the challenge has been quite easy. “We actually surpassed our goal on the first day,” says Amanda Berloni, an articling student at Wildeboer Dellelce LLP.
“We had no idea how giving people would be or that they would donate so much. We haven’t set a goal now — it was $500 — because people have been really involved and excited about the challenge, so we felt it wasn’t needed at that point.”
To keep the momentum going until the end of the challenge, articling students at the firm have also circulated e-mails, set up cans around the office to collect donations, placed boxes for non-perishable items in the lunchroom, and encouraged people to give what they can online, she adds.
“We have a really good team here and everyone has been really receptive,” says Berloni.
Despite being a small firm of roughly 50 people, Berloni says it’s still very much a part of the competition.
“I get texts from other articling students at the other law firms all the time saying they’re ahead or we better watch out. But I think the good thing about the law firm challenge is that it’s a really good way to get all the law firms together and challenging each other for a good cause.”
According to the food bank’s web site, McLeish Orlando’s team was leading the challenge as of Dec. 5 with donations of $13,457. Heenan Blaikie LLP’s team was second with $5,976 in donations. Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP’s team, meanwhile, had brought in $1,950 in donations.